General Wellness

Alcohol Use

How can I be safer when I drink?

When you know you will be drinking, plan ahead, stay in control and stay safe!

Try these tips:

  1. Pace yourself by alternating alcoholic drinks with soft drinks or water. Eat before you drink and while you are drinking.
  2. Know your limit. Keep below it. Don't let others push you beyond it.
  3. Drink slowly. Don't chug. No one will be impressed by how fast you can drink when you're clinging to the toilet.
  4. Stop drinking before you feel drunk.
  5. Don't mix alcohol with medicines, illegal drugs or energy drinks. Other drugs may interact with alcohol, causing affects you don't expect or are unable to control.
  6. Count your drinks. Ways to keep track include keeping your bottle caps in your pocket.
  7. Think about your reputation, your safety and the safety of others.
  8. Watch your drink so that no one can slip anything into it when you're not looking.
  9. Plan ahead. Arrange to walk, take a taxi or public transit home with a sober buddy; get someone you can trust to pick you up; or stay overnight where you will be drinking.
  10. If you drink any alcohol, do not drive.

The only way to know whether the level of alcohol in your body is within the legal limit for driving is a breathalyzer or blood test. You can't tell by the way you feel. Just as important, don't ride with a driver who has been drinking.


Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2008). Partying and getting drunk. (opens new window)

Alcohol Poisoning

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning:
  • Severe vomiting or vomiting while "sleeping" or passed out and not waking
  • Not responding to talking or shouting
  • Not responding to being pinched, shaken, or poked
  • Slow and laboured breathing
  • Turning a purplish colour or having cold, clammy skin

What to do if you suspect alcohol poisoning:

  • Call 911, even if the person is underage
  • Roll the person on their side into the recovery position (see diagram below) so they do not choke if they vomit
  • Do NOT leave the person alone. Stay with them and monitor their breathing until medical help arrives

The Bacchus Maneuver

Description: A Diagram of the Bacchus Manoeuvre

External Resources:

Bed Bugs

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are insects that, as adults, have oval-shaped bodies with no wings. Prior to feeding, they are about 1/4 inch long and flat as paper. After feeding, they turn dark red and become bloated. Eggs are whitish, pear-shaped and about the size of a pinhead.

Clusters of 10-50 eggs can be found in cracks and crevices. Bed bugs have a one-year life span during which time a female can lay 200-400 eggs depending on food supply and temperature. Eggs hatch in about 10 days.Bed Bugs Logo

What do bed bugs feed on?

Bed bugs prefer to feed on human blood, but will also bite mammals and birds. Bed bugs bite at night, and will bite all over a human body, especially around the face, neck, upper torso, arms and hands. Bed bugs can survive up to six months without feeding. Both male and female bed bugs bite.

Can I get sick from bed bugs?

There are no known cases of infectious disease transmitted by bed bug bites. Most people are not aware that they have been bitten but some people are more sensitive to the bite and may have a localized reaction. Scratching the bitten areas can lead to infection.

How do bed bugs get into my home?

Bed bugs are often carried into a home on objects such as furniture and clothing. If you think you have a bed bug problem, check for live bed bugs or shells in the following areas:

  • Seams, creases, tufts and folds of mattresses and box springs
  • Cracks in the bed frame and head board
  • Under chairs, couches, beds, dust covers
  • Between the cushions of couches and chairs
  • Under area rugs and the edges of carpets
  • Between the folds of curtains
  • In drawers
  • Behind baseboards, and around window and door casings
  • Behind electrical plates and under loose wallpaper, paintings and posters
  • In cracks in plaster
  • In telephones, radios, and clocks

Bed bugs can also travel from apartment to apartment along pipes, electrical wiring and other openings. If the infestation is heavy, a sweet smell may be noticed in the room.

What can I do if I have bed bugs in my home?

  1. Consult with your local health department or a professional Pest Control operator to confirm that you have bed bugs.
  2. Inspect your mattress and bed frame, particularly the folds, crevices and the underside, and other locations where bed bugs like to hide.
  3. Use a nozzle attachment on the vacuum to capture the bed bugs and their eggs. Vacuum all crevices on your mattress, bed frame, baseboards and any objects close to the bed. It is essential to vacuum daily and empty the vacuum immediately.
  4. Wash all your linens in the hottest water possible and place them in a hot dryer for 20 minutes. Consider covering your pillows and mattress with a plastic cover.
  5. Remove all unnecessary clutter.
  6. Seal cracks and crevices between baseboards, on wood bed frames, floors and walls with caulking. Repair or remove peeling wallpaper, tighten loose light switch covers, and seal any openings where pipes, wires or other utilities come into your home (pay special attention to walls that are shared between apartments).
  7. Monitor daily by setting out glue boards or sticky tape (carpet tape works well) to catch the bed bugs. Closely examine any items that you are bringing into your home.
  8. Consult professional pest control services and discuss options that pose the least risk to humans and the environment.

If you choose to treat the infestation with an insecticide, call a Professional Pest Control Service for more information. Use the least toxic product available and follow all manufacturers' instructions.

Whether you choose Integrated Pest Management or insecticides, you may continue to see some living bed bugs for up to ten days. This is normal. If you continue to see a large number of bed bugs after two weeks, contact a professional pest control service.

What do bed bug bites look like?

When bed bugs bite people, they inject their saliva into the biting area, causing the skin to become irritated and inflamed.

Individual responses to bed bug bites will vary.

The skin lesion from bed bug bites may go unnoticed, or be mistaken for flea or mosquito bites or other skin conditions.

Bed Bug Bites Logo

Four types of skin rashes have been described in the literature:

  1. The most common rash is made up of localized red and itchy flat lesions. The classical bed bug bites could be presented in a linear fashion in a group of three, which is called "breakfast, lunch, and dinner".
  2. Small raised red swelling lesions are also common.
  3. In rare cases, people may develop large raised, often itchy, red welts.
  4. In people with high sensitivity to bed bug saliva, people may develop a lump filled with blood or fluid.

Bed bug bites most commonly occur on exposed areas of the body, including face, neck, hands, arms, lower legs or all over the body.

How do I treat bed bug bites?

Most bed bug bites go away by themselves and don't need treatment. Keep the skin clean and try not to scratch. If the bites are very itchy, your doctor may prescribe cream or antihistamines to relieve the itchiness. Oral antibiotics may be prescribed for any secondary skin infection from excessive scratching.

How do I prevent bed bugs from entering my home?

  • Although even the cleanest homes and hotels can have bed bugs, regular house cleaning, including vacuuming your mattress, can help to prevent an infestation. Clean up clutter to help reduce the number of places bed bugs can hide.
  • Be careful when buying used furniture or clothes. Make sure to inspect the used item, and feel free to ask the retailer if the items were checked for bed bugs.
  • Use caution when bringing home used furniture or clothes from the curb side. These items may be infested with bed bugs.
  • When travelling take the following precautions:
    1. Inspect the room and furniture: inspect all cracks and crevices of the mattress and box spring, and look for blood spots or live insects. Request a different room if you find evidence of beg bugs.
    2. Protect your luggage: keep all belongings in your luggage and wrap your luggage in plastic to help prevent bed bugs from entering your luggage. Keep luggage on the shelf or away from the floor.
    3. Protect the bed: move the bed away from the wall, tuck in all bed sheets and keep blankets from touching the floor.
    4. Upon returning home: keep your luggage in an isolated area of your home, such as the garage. Inspect the luggage. Wash all your clothes in the hottest water possible and put them in a hot dryer for 20 minutes.


Toronto Public Health. (2008). Bed bugs fact sheet (opens new window)

Additional Resource:

Hamilton Public Health. Bed Bugs (opens new window)


Caffeine is a natural plant ingredient found in the beans, nuts and leaves of crops such as coffee, tea, cocoa, kola, guarana and yerba maté. In our diet, caffeine shows up in traditional beverages like coffee, tea and cola, in chocolate products, and in 'energy' drinks. It is also available in some medications.

How does caffeine affect my health?

Caffeine can have positive effects for healthy adults by increasing alertness and ability to concentrate. When caffeinated foods and beverages are consumed as part of a well-balanced diet, they do not cause dehydration and are not harmful to overall heart health, or bone health. They may even be beneficial in preventing some chronic diseases. However, tolerance to caffeine differs widely from person to person. For a small number of sensitive individuals, caffeine may cause insomnia, headaches, irritability, and nervousness. Tolerance can depend on your age, body size, physical condition, and how frequently you consume caffeine.

Health Canada's Caffeine Guidelines

  • For healthy adults, a moderate caffeine intake of 400 - 450 mg of caffeine per day is not associated with any adverse effect.
  • Pregnant and breast-feeding women, or women trying to become pregnant, should limit their caffeine intake to 300 mg per day from all sources.
  • Children are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine due to their smaller size and ____? Parents should encourage children to drink more nutritious beverages such as milk, 100% real fruit juice, and water to quench their thirst, and to limit caffeine intake as follows:
    • Age 4-6 years: 45 mg/day
    • Age 7-9 years: 62.5 mg/day
    • Age 10-12 years: 85 mg/day
  • People with medical conditions should ask their doctor about a safe amount of caffeine for them. Some prescriptions may contain caffeine, and others may interact with caffeine.

Energy Drinks

In today's market, caffeine is added to a wide variety of energy drinks such as Red Bull, Red Dragon, SoBe Adrenaline Rush, and more. "Energy drinks" are meant to supply mental and physical stimulation for a short period of time.

Many of these drinks are not regulated as Natural Health Products (NHP) and so the safety and quality of such products have not been evaluated. If you do consume these beverages, include the caffeine content when calculating your overall intake. Despite attractive marketing designs aimed at children, energy drinks should be strictly limited or avoided by children.

Product Milligrams of Caffeine(Approx. Values)

Coffee: per 8-oz/237 ml

  • Average Brew
  • Decaffeinated
  • Espresso, 1.5 oz/22ml shot
  • Filter Drip
  • Instant, regular
  • Percolated
  • 137
  • 3-5
  • 80
  • 179
  • 76-106
  • 118

Tea: per 8-oz/237 ml

  • Average Blend
  • Decaffeinated Tea
  • Green
  • Instant
  • Most Herbal Teas
  • 43
  • 0
  • 30
  • 15
  • 0

Cola Soft Drinks: per 220z/355ml

  • 1 can
  • 36 - 46

Cocoa Products

  • Chocolate Milk: 8 oz/237ml
  • Hot Cocoa: 8 oz/237ml (1 envelope)
  • Dark Chocolate: 28g portion
  • Milk Chocolate: 28g portion
  • 8
  • 5
  • 19
  • 7

Energy Drinks: per 8 oz/355ml

  • 60-160

Note: The amount of caffeine in products varies depending on the brand, how it is prepared, and the serving size

Hidden Sources of Caffeine

Guarana and yerba maté are plants with naturally occurring caffeine. They are added to energy drinks, teas and some soft drinks. These ingredients need to be considered when calculating your total caffeine intake. For example, if a beverage lists both caffeine and guarana, it means that you are getting caffeine from two sources.

Healthy Tips

  • Try ½ hot chocolate with ½ coffee – less caffeine but lots of flavour.
  • Be aware of portion size – most takeout coffee cups are greater than 8-oz.
  • Cut down on caffeine gradually to avoid headaches and drowsiness.
  • Mix ½ decaffeinated with ½ regular coffee to help you slowly cut down.
  • Try green tea instead of black.
  • Order specialty coffees with lower fat milk and "hold" the whipped cream topping to reduce fat and calories.
  • Add milk to your coffee rather than cream.
  • Stay alert throughout the day by getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and being physically active. Don't rely on caffeine!


About Concussions

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Concussions can also occur from a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. Doctors may describe a concussion as a "mild" brain injury because concussions are usually not life-threatening. Even so, their effects can be serious.

Concussion Signs and Symptoms

Most people with a concussion recover quickly and fully. But for some people, symptoms can last for days, weeks, or longer. In general, recovery may be slower among older adults, young children, and teens. Those who have had a concussion in the past are also at risk of having another one and may find that it takes longer to recover if they have another concussion. Symptoms of concussion usually fall into four categories:


  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering new information


  • Headache
  • Fuzzy or blurry vision
  • Nausea or vomiting (early on)
  • Dizziness
  • Sensitivity to noise of light
  • Balance problems
  • Feeling tired, having no energy


  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • More emotional
  • Nervousness or anxiety


  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Sleep less than usual
  • Trouble falling asleep

Getting Better

Rest is very important after a concussion because it helps the brain to heal. Ignoring your symptoms and trying to "tough it out" often makes symptoms worse. Be patient because healing takes time. Only when your symptoms have reduced significantly, in consultation with your doctor, should you slowly and gradually return to your daily activities, such as work or school. If your symptoms come back or you get new symptoms as you become more active, this is a sign that you are pushing yourself too hard. Stop these activities and take more time to rest and recover. As the days go by, you can expect to gradually feel better.

Tips to help you get better:
  • Get plenty of sleep at night, and rest during the day.
  • Avoid activities that are physically demanding (e.g., sports, heavy housecleaning, working-out); or require a lot of concentration (e.g., sustained computer use, video games).
  • Ask your doctor when you can safely drive a car, ride a bike, or operate heavy equipment.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol and other drugs may slow your recovery and put you at risk of further injury.

There are many people who can help you and your family as you recover from a concussion. You do not have to do it alone. Keep talking with your doctor, family members, and loved ones about how you are feeling, both physically and emotionally. If you do not think you are getting better, tell your doctor.

Cover your Cough

Cover Your Cough Logo

Always Cover Your Cough

  • Covering your cough or sneeze can stop the spread of germs
  • If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve
  • Keep your distance (more than 1 metre/3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing

Stop the Spread of Germs: Always Cover Your Cough

Why should I cover my mouth and nose with a tissue when I cough or sneeze?

Germs such as influenza, cold viruses, and even whooping cough are spread by coughing or sneezing. When you cough or sneeze on your hands, your hands carry and spread these germs.

When you touch an object such as a door handle, subway pole, telephone or computer keyboard with unclean hands, you are spreading germs. The next person who touches these objects may pick up germs and get sick if they do not clean their hands before touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

How do I stop the spread of germs if I am sick?

To stop the spread of germs:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Put used tissues in the garbage. Clean your hands with soap and warm water or an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
  • If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper arm, not into your hands.
  • Keep your distance (more than 1 metre / 3 feet) from people.
  • Stay at home if you are sick.
  • Don't share eating utensils (e.g., cups or straws), toothbrushes or towels.

How can I stay healthy?

  • Keep your hands clean. Clean your hands with soap and warm water. When hands are not visibly soiled, you can use a minimum 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Minimize touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Germs are often spread when you touch something that is contaminated with germs and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unclean hands.
  • Keep your distance (more than 1 meter / 3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing.
  • Get your flu shot (influenza vaccine) every year.
  • Practice good health habits - eat healthy foods, get regular exercise, and get enough rest.


Toronto Public Health. (2006). Cover your cough (opens new window)


Water and Hydration

Hot temperatures can increase the risk of dehydration. During hot, humid conditions and prolonged or intense exercise, the body needs more fluids to replace sweat losses and prevent heat illness. Beat the heat by drinking plenty of water and other fluids – thirst alone may not tell you of your body's need for water.

Water is an essential nutrient

  • makes up about 60 - 70% of the body
  • maintains body temperature and keeps blood flowing
  • carries oxygen and nutrients to working muscles
  • takes away wastes to be eliminated in urine
  • produces sweat to keep us cool
  • maintains blood pressure and heart rate
  • cushions organs and lubricates joints
  • helps store energy (glycogen and creatine) in the muscle
  • absorbs nutrients

Water intake can come from drinking water (city tap water), water in beverages (such as milk, 100% juice, coffee, and tea), and water from food (such as vegetables, fruit, and soups).

How much water is enough?

The amount of water you need depends on your age, gender, body size, level of physical activity and the climate in which you live.

Age or Stage

Total daily water needs from ALL sources (litres), approximate



4 - 8 years

1.7 L

1.7 L

9 - 13 years

2.4 L

2.1 L

14 -18 years

3.3 L

2.3 L

19 + years

3.7 L

2.7 L



3.0 L



3.8 L

Source: Institute of Medicine (2004). Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate, Washington DC: National Academy Press

Signs that you aren't getting enough water.

  • dark yellow urine
  • dry mouth, thirst
  • increased body temperature
  • dizziness, irritability, tiredness, weakness
  • less coordination, decreased concentration
  • poor vision, cramps, nausea, headaches
  • rapid heart beat
  • Whether it's very hot or not, encourage children to drink on a schedule (approximately every 15 to 20 minutes during physical activity).
  • Enjoy tap water! It's readily available, safe, and inexpensive. It only costs 1 cent to fill a 1 litre water bottle more than 10 times.
  • For added flavour, try water with a squeeze of lemon or diluted fruit juices (one part juice to one part water). In hot weather, children may drink more fluids if they are flavoured.
  • Make sure all family members carry a clean filled water bottle when they're out and about. Note: water bottles should be personal and not be shared.
  • Wash, rinse, and sanitize personal water bottles daily. If refilling during the day, simply rinse a couple of times with clean fresh water and refill.
  • Keep beverages cool. Add a few ice cubes to your water bottle and fill with cold water. Note: it is better to store beverages out of direct sunlight and in a cold environment, especially if they have been handled or opened.

Hydration for Sports

Being active increases the need for fluids.

Children and teens are at greater risk for dehydration and overheating because they sweat less than adults but produce more heat during activity. Encourage them to drink often; don't wait for them to tell you they are thirsty.

  • Water: Cool water is a must for athletes and the best choices for active kids. Adults participating in activities lasting less than 90 minutes should also choose water.
  • Juice: The high sugar content in juice can slow fluid absorption and increase the chance of a stomach ache. If fruit juice is consumed during exercising, it should be diluted.
  • Sports Drinks: Sports drinks are not needed for activities that are less than 90 minutes. Sports drinks are beneficial to athletes who have been exercising and sweating intensely for 90 minutes or more, because they contain carbohydrate and electrolytes.
  • Energy Drinks: The high sugar content and/or carbonation of energy drinks can interfere with hydration, making these a poor choice for use physical activity. Health Canada cautions that children and pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid energy drinks.

Hydration is vital to your good health!


Hamilton Public Health. (2009). Water and hydration (opens new window)

Diet Watchers

Diet Trackers

Have a target weight in mind or concerned about nutrient levels in your diet?

Try monitoring your diet with one of these free, easy to use tools!

In fact, a Macleans article from 2012 states “Counting calories may seem retro, and not in a fun way. But those who track what’s going in and frequently weigh themselves have a better weight-loss outcome, which is particularly helpful since studies have found people underestimate calories in the food they eat, especially high-calorie foods”.


Macleans. (2012). What is the most effective diet for losing weight (opens new window)

Additional Resource:

Eat Right Ontario (opens new window)

Eating disorders

Food and Weight Preoccupation

Thoughts, feelings and behaviours related to managing food and weight can begin to interfere with our everyday activities. When we focus too much attention on our bodies and our eating, these preoccupations can quickly lead to missed opportunities in other parts of our lives. Our personal, school or professional lives, not to mention our overall well-being, can be drastically affected. Food and weight preoccupation can also lead to severe physical and emotional problems.

How Does Someone Develop An Eating Disorder?

There are many societal, familial and individual factors that can influence the development of an eating disorder. Individuals who are struggling with their identity and self-image can be at risk, as well as those who have experienced a traumatic event. Eating disorders can also be a product of how one has been raised and taught to behave. Usually, an eating disorder signals that the person has deep emotional difficulties that they are unable to face or resolve.

What's It Like to Have an Eating Disorder?

People with eating disorders often describe a feeling of powerlessness. By manipulating their eating, they then blunt their emotions or get a false sense of control in their lives. In this way, an eating disorder develops out of a method of coping with the world. This coping, however, is merely a mask, as it does not solve the life problems that the person is experiencing.

How Do I Know If I Have An Eating Disorder?

If the way you eat and think about food interferes with your life and keeps you from enjoying life and moving forward, then that is disordered eating. Take it seriously and talk to someone who can help. You don't need to wait for a diagnosis by a doctor.

Clinical Eating Disorders

What exactly are clinical eating disorders? Clinical eating disorders include:

Anorexia nervosa- When you lose a lot of weight because you're hardly eating anything, and might over-exercise. You probably can't or don't admit how underweight you are. You may not initially look very thin, but may be far too thin to support your health. You can be so thin that every bone in your body shows, but still feel "fat". When you feel fat it makes it hard to ask for help or hear advice from others because, to you, "fat" has come to mean "being bad". You could also know that you are much too thin but don't make changes because you're so afraid of food and gaining weight. To you, this would represent losing control over yourself.

Bulimia nervosa- When you binge and purge. You eat out of control and then try to get rid of the calories. You fast, make yourself vomit, abuse laxatives, or exercise too much. These ways of purging harm your body and don't help you accomplish what you want. Your weight may go up and down a lot.

Binge-eating disorder (BED)- When you eat so much you're uncomfortable, eat to comfort yourself, eat in secret, or keep eating as part of a meal or between meals. You feel a lot of shame or guilt about your eating. Binge eating is also called compulsive eating. It is not the same as bulimia because you do not usually try to get rid of the food you've eaten.

Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (ED-NOS)- Individuals who experience a mix of anorexia, and/or bulimia, and/or binge-eating symptoms, but who don't fall neatly into one of the medical categories, are said to have an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (ED-NOS). These individuals should also receive the help and resources provided to individuals who have a "neat" clinical diagnosis.

If you have a family member or friend who struggles with an eating disorder, or are struggling personally, please visit the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (opens new window) and check out all of the helpful tips on the 'know the facts' tab.


National Eating Disorder Information Centre (2013) Food and weight preoccupation. (opens new window)

Exercise Guidelines

Adults (aged 18 to 65)

How much and how often?

  • Adults should get at least 150 minutes/week of moderate intensity physical activity (such as brisk walking, swimming or raking leaves). This can be achieved in a variety of ways, for example 30 minutes 5 days a week.
  • Activity can be broken into smaller bouts at least 10 minutes long. If activity is vigorous (such as jogging, hockey or aerobics), health benefits can be achieved with 90 minutes/week. In general, the more time spent being active and the more intense the activity, the better.

What kind?

  • The physical activity should be mostly aerobic activity, and should include muscle and bone strengthening activities 2 to 4 days a week, and flexibility activities 4 to 7 days a week.
  • Some examples of muscle and bone strengthening activities include skipping, jumping, lifting, tennis, curling and weight training. Some examples of flexibility activities include stretching, martial arts and yoga.

Existing guidelines - Adults (aged 20 to 55)

  • Accumulate 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity every day, including endurance activities 4 to 7 days per week, flexibility activities 4 to 7 days per week and resistance (strength) activities 2 to 4 days per week.
  • Time needed depends on effort: 60 minutes light effort, 30 to 60 minutes moderate effort activities and 20 to 30 minutes vigorous effort. Accumulate in increments of at least 10 minutes each.
  • Reduce sitting for long periods.


Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. (2010). Fact sheet – new physical activity recommendations.(opens PDF, 576kb)

First Aid Basics

Minor cuts and scrapes

  • Stop the bleeding by applying gentle pressure with a clean cloth or bandage:
    • Elevate the wound above the level of the heart
    • Keep the pressure on for 20 to 30 minutes
  • Rinse the wound with water and clean the surrounding
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment to prevent infection
  • Cover the wound with a bandage


  • Apply a cool, wet cloth to the area
  • Aloe cream may offer some relief to skin
  • Ask Wellness4U or a local pharmacist about non-prescription pain relievers if it is painful
  • Do not break blisters; if they open, apply an antibacterial ointment to the area

Minor activity-related injuries; R.I.C.E.

  • Rest the affected area for 24 to 48 hours after the injury occurred
  • Ice applied to the area in the first 48 hours will help to prevent swelling
  • Compression refers to wrapping the affected area to reduce swelling
  • Elevation of the affected area above the level of the heart to reduce pain and swelling

Insect bites and stings

  • Remove the stinger if you can see it in your skin; wash the area with soap and water
  • Apply a cold/ice pack to the area of the sting to reduce pain and swelling
  • Ask the pharmacist about a non-prescription pain reliever
  • Apply a cream for itchy skin (e.g., hydrocortisone, colloidal oatmeal)
  • Know the signs of a severe reaction:
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Swelling of lips and throat
    • Hives
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Fast heartbeat


Patient Care and Health Information (opens new window)

Overweight and Obesity

What are overweight and obesity?

Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health.

Body mass index (BMI) is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. It is defined as a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2).
The WHO definition is:

  • a BMI greater than or equal to 25 is overweight
  • a BMI greater than or equal to 30 is obesity.

BMI provides the most useful population-level measure of overweight and obesity as it is the same for both sexes and for all ages of adults. However, it should be considered a rough guide because it may not correspond to the same degree of fatness in different individuals.

Facts about overweight and obesity

Overweight and obesity are the fifth leading risk for global deaths. At least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. In addition, 44% of the diabetes burden, 23% of the ischaemic heart disease burden and between 7% and 41% of certain cancer burdens are attributable to overweight and obesity.

Some WHO global estimates from 2008 follow.

  • More than 1.4 billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight.
  • Of these overweight adults, over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese.
  • Overall, more than 10% of the world's adult population was obese.

In 2011, more than 40 million children under the age of five were overweight. Once considered a high-income country problem, overweight and obesity are now on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings. More than 30 million overweight children are living in developing countries and 10 million in developed countries.

Overweight and obesity are linked to more deaths worldwide than underweight. For example, 65% of the world's population live in countries where overweight and obesity kill more people than underweight (this includes all high-income and most middle-income countries).

What causes obesity and overweight?

The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. Globally, there has been:
  • an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat; and
  • an increase in physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.

Changes in dietary and physical activity patterns are often the result of environmental and societal changes associated with development and lack of supportive policies in sectors such as health, agriculture, transport, urban planning, environment, food processing, distribution, marketing and education.

What are common health consequences of overweight and obesity?

Raised BMI is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as:

  • cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), which were the leading cause of death in 2008;
  • diabetes;
  • musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis - a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints);
  • some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon).

The risk for these noncommunicable diseases increases, with the increase in BMI.

How can overweight and obesity be reduced?

Overweight and obesity, as well as their related noncommunicable diseases, are largely preventable. Supportive environments and communities are fundamental in shaping people's choices, making the healthier choice of foods and regular physical activity the easiest choice (accessible, available and affordable), and therefore preventing obesity.

At the individual level, people can:

  • limit energy intake from total fats and sugars;
  • increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts;
  • engage in regular physical activity (60 minutes a day for children and 150 minutes per week for adults).


World Health Organization. (2013). Obesity and overweight.(opens new window)


What are scabies?

Scabies are parasitic mites that dig holes (burrow) under the surface of the skin and lay eggs. The larvae that hatch move to new areas of the body and spread the infection. Mites prefer warm areas such as the folds of skin on the elbows, wrists, buttocks, knees, shoulder blades, waist, breasts, and penis, between the fingers, and under the nails.

How are scabies transmitted?

Scabies are spread through close contact with someone who is infected. Scabies can live for three days on clothing, towels and bedding. These can be a source of transmission, but that is much less likely than skin to skin contact.
Mites are not related to poor hygiene. Anyone can get scabies, though it’s most common among sexually active people and in situations where individuals are in close contact.


  • Avoid sharing unwashed towels and clothing.
  • If it can’t be washed, vacuum it.
  • If you’re shopping for a bathing suit, wear your underclothes while trying things on in the change room.

What are the symptoms?

Within three to four weeks of infestations an infected person could experience:

  • Intense itchiness, especially at night-time or after bathing. This is caused by an allergic reaction to the mites’ feces.
  • Reddish rash on fingers, wrists, armpits, waist, nipples, or penis.
  • With reoccurrences, the same symptoms occur more rapidly within hours to days of a re-infestation.
  • Severe infections are commonly seen in people with compromised immune systems or HIV. The skin can become scaly or crusty, requiring more complex and aggressive treatment.

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnosing scabies can be difficult and timely, but a healthcare professional examines the area to determine if the patient is infected. A sample may be scraped from the skin and analyzed under a microscope if necessary.


  • A special lotion the doctor prescribes is applied to the whole body.
  • Some treatments are available without a prescription, ask your pharmacist
  • Clothes, towels, bedding and other possible contaminated items should be washed with hot water or dry-cleaned, or bagged for three days to one week. This kills the mites.
  • Items that cannot be cleaned should be vacuumed.

Impact if not treated

  • Persistent scratching or irritated skin can cause a secondary bacterial infection.

What to tell your partner

All household contacts and recent sexual partners within the past month should be treated to prevent re-infestation. Scabies is easily treated, but your partner(s) may not have symptoms. Also, if you’re with a partner who’s infected, they can reinfect you after you’ve had treatment.

Telling a partner about a scabies infection may be embarrassing, but it’s important to be very honest with your partner(s). Let them know so that they can get tested and treated if necessary.

When can I have sex again?

Ask your healthcare professional when receiving treatment about when you can have sex again. Do not have sex again if you or your partner(s) have not fully completed treatment, or if you are still displaying symptoms of infection. Remember, you can become reinfected immediately after your infection clears up.


SexualityandU. (2013). Parasitic STIs-STDs. (opens new window)

Sun Safety

Six Sun Safety Recommendations

  1. Limit time in the sun between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. or whenever the UV Index is 3 or more
    • When possible, plan outdoor activities before or after this time to avoid being outside when the sun's rays are the strongest.
    • Keep babies under one year of age out of direct sunlight.

  2. Look for shaded areas to do outdoor activities
    • Do outdoor activities in shady spots (e.g. under a tree or in the shade of a building).
    • Create shade by using an umbrella, awning, gazebo tent, pup tent or canopy.

  3. Wear a hat with a wide brim or with a visor and back flap
    • A hat with a wide brim (7.5 cm/3 inches wide) or with a back flap will help shade the head, face, eyes, ears and neck areas.
    • Hats made of tightly woven fabric are best.

  4. Wear clothing to protect as much skin as possible
    • Long-sleeved shirts and long pants (or at least knee-length shorts) are recommended even on cloudy days.
    • Tightly woven fabrics block the sun's rays the best. Fabrics that block out the light when held up to a light bulb will help to block UV rays better.
    • T-shirts (in addition to sunscreen) can be worn when in water.

  5. Wear UVA and UVB protective sunglasses
    • Sunglasses that wrap around the face protect better.
    • Children's sunglasses should be unbreakable.

  6. Use a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher that gives protection from both UVA & UVB rays
    • Sunscreen should be applied about 30 minutes before sun exposure. Apply a second time 20 minutes later. Reapply every 2 hours or after swimming, towelling or exercising. Sunscreen should be used even on cloudy, hazy or foggy days.
    • Sunscreen is not recommended for infants under six months of age.
    • No sunscreen protects 100%. Use it with the other Sun Safety Recommendations.
    • Remember: indoor tanning is no safer than the sun.

Although the best choices for sun protection are to stay in the shade and to cover up, sunscreen is helpful too. Here is a checklist for effective sunscreen use:

Choose a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher that gives protection from both UVA & UVB rays. Look for a product with the Canadian Dermatology Association logo on it. If you are going to be outside for longer than 2 ½ hours, a SPF of 20-30 might be a better choice. (Note: Sunscreens are not recommended for infants under six months of age.)

Read and follow the manufacturer's recommendations on the bottle or tube. Check for the expiry date of the product. Do not use after expiration date.

Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure. Apply a second time 20 minutes later. This is important. It allows time for the active ingredients in the sunscreen to reach the protection level.

Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or after swimming, towelling or exercising. This includes waterproof sunscreen.

Apply sunscreen generously to dry, clean skin. Sunscreen must be applied to dry clean skin generously and thoroughly to be effective. Don't forget ears, nose, back of neck and backs of legs. Also use an SPF 15 sunscreen lip balm for lips.

Use a sunscreen even on cloudy, hazy, foggy and cool days.

Always test for an allergic reaction when first using a sunscreen. Apply a small amount on your inner forearm for 2 – 3 days consecutively. Check for adverse reactions. Application of insect repellent may reduce the effectiveness of sunscreen. When sunscreen and insect repellent are used together, cover up and wear a hat to ensure better protection from the sun. Use insect repellent as directed by the manufacturer.

Remember, no sunscreen protects 100%. So apply sunscreen and then cover up with a hat, long sleeve shirt, pants and sunglasses.

Toronto Public Health. (2009). 6 sun safety recommendations. Retrieved from Toronto Public Health. (2009). 6 sun safety recommendations. (opens new window)

Vegetarian diet


A well thought out diet can be healthy and even delicious. The key to being a healthy vegetarian is ensuring that you are getting in all the nutrients you need. It is important to eat a wide variety from Canada’s Food Guide to ensure you account for nutrients normally found in meat such as protein, iron, zinc, and omega 3 fatty acids. In fact vegetarians should be taking in twice as much iron as non-vegetarians due to poor absorption of iron in the body from plant sources. Consider the following iron rich foods for your vegetarian diet: legumes, fortified pasta, quinoa, raisins, and dark green vegetables.

For more information on making sure you have a balanced vegetarian diet check out this valuable resource from EatRight Ontario: having a healthy vegetarian diet (opens new window)


General Wellness Fast Facts

  • Lack of sleep lowers leptin levels (hormones that suppress appetite) and increases ghrelin levels (hormones that boost appetite)
  • You'd need to walk through an airport full-body scanner 1,000 times to get the same radiation dosage as one standard chest X-ray
  • Research shows that regular activity can lower the frequency and severity of lower-back pain
  • Chewing a regular aspirin at the first signs of a heart attack helps prevent the formation of blood clots in the coronary arteries
  • Most cases of bad breath are caused by oral bacteria, most of which can be effectively removed by flossing
  • Learning a new language or how to play a musical instrument creates new neural connections, making them excellent brain boosters
  • Men who use anabolic steroids to build muscle can experience serious sexual side-effects, including shrunken testicles and erectile dysfunction
  • The stress of an unhealthy relationship can put you at increased risk of high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, heart attack and stroke
  • One cup (250 mL) of vegetable pasta (e.g., spinach) contains only 1 Tbsp./15 mL of actual vegetable purée
  • One out of 4 women and one out of 5 men have no knowledge about their sexual partners' history

External Resources